ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals
By Rob Geiger, NHRA.com
The three men that could be champions -- Top Fuel's Tony Schumacher, Funny Car's John Force, and Pro Stock's Greg Anderson -- scored big wins in "Big D" Sunday at the 20th anniversary O'Reilly Fall Nationals presented by Castrol Syntec. Schumacher and Anderson made clinching a championship a mere formality with their victories, while Force moved from 43 points back to 36 ahead in the chase for his 14th POWERade title. Schumacher has now been to five finals in a row, winning the last three events including the last two over red-hot Doug Herbert. After an 81-second, made-for-TV burndown,
The three men that could be champions -- Top Fuel's Tony Schumacher, Funny Car's John Force, and Pro Stock's Greg Anderson -- scored big wins in "Big D" Sunday at the 20th anniversary O'Reilly Fall Nationals presented by Castrol Syntec. Schumacher and Anderson made clinching a championship a mere formality with their victories, while Force moved from 43 points back to 36 ahead in the chase for his 14th POWERade title.
Schumacher has now been to five finals in a row, winning the last three events including the last two over red-hot Doug Herbert. After an 81-second, made-for-TV burndown,
"We all get together and give little speeches on Sunday morning to all of our guests," Schumacher said. "[Whit] Bazemore started today and he was up there talking about how there was a million ways to lose and only one way to win. He was saying how hard it is. Finally [Ron] Capps tells him to shut up. I think it started getting in his head. That's how the pressure is at this point in the year.
"My buddy rides bulls and he was second in the points and he asked me how to win it all. I told him you have to forget about the sponsors and the money and just ride that bull like you did when you were 16 and you only cared about getting on that thing and beating it.
"The pressure is obviously off us a little bit but I was right where those guys are just a few races back. I was chasing Doug Kalitta and I felt it big time. Then we got on a roll and now we're winning when we need to."
Schumacher is now 268 points ahead of Larry Dixon and 271 in front of Doug Kalitta. Schumacher only needs to show up and make one qualifying pass in
Schumacher did need a little luck to get his seventh race of the year and he got it in the quarterfinals when he smoked his tires but still managed to beat Morgan Lucas, who also lost traction. Prior to that race the reigning series champion beat Mitch King with a 4.48. In the semis, the U.S. Army dragster rolled past stablemate Melanie Troxel, who reached the semi’s for the first time since rejoining the Top Fuel wars nine races back.
Low qualifier Herbert raced to his fourth final of the season by beating Bill Ancona, Doug Kalitta, and "Hot Rod" Fuller. Herbert avoided a major disaster in the semi’s when his steering wheel came off just past the finish line. His Snap-on Tools rail made contact with the right-side retaining wall several times but the damage was superficial.
Herbert's impressive run lifted him from seventh to fifth place in the points. Schumacher merely needs to show up and make one qualifying pass in
The final ended up being a single when opponent Frank Pedregon encountered engine problems prior to his burnout and had to abort his attempt. It might not have mattered as Force blasted to 4.797 at 324.05 mph, the quickest pas of the day.
Motivated by a note from his racer daughter Ashley, Force cruised to his record 186th final round by dismissing Tommy Johnson Jr., Tim Wilkerson, and Tony Bartone. This was the seventh final of the year for Force. His last win came in late may in
"I feel great for this entire team," Force said. "The championship was starting to look a little edgy. Now we're right back in there. We still have work to do but we're getting serious now right when we need to get serious. The championship still goes through me but we've been sweating it out.
"I love my opponents. I felt bad for [
"Scelzi and [Capps] were saying they were nervous and that they were throwing up behind the bleachers. My daughter wrote me a note and after I read it I was crying behind the bleachers. My time is almost up but the next generation is right behind us."
It wasn't pretty but Pedregon got his Toyo Tires Dodge Stratus R/T to the final round for the second time in the last four races. The part-time pro beat Mike Ashley with a 4.87, low qualifier Ron Capps with a 5.68, and
When the lights flashed it was
"That was fun,"
"It feels great to be here. After the way we started the season and the struggles we had I think a lot of our competitors thought they had us. To be sitting here on the verge of winning our third championship in a row is special. I guess I'll look at things like winning three in a row and the historical significance of it when I'm old. All I think about is winning the race I'm at. I don't understand it when NASCAR guys say they want a top five finish. I'm not like that. I want the trophy every time. That's where the fun and gratification comes from."
The Summit Racing GTO teammates, who started the day first and second on the ladder, drove through their respective sides of the grid with relative ease.
Return to the Home Page